European festivals. What's not to love? Exotic cities; good food; thoughtful lineups; interesting venues; attentive crowds; happier artists - where's the downside? As Plissken Festival in Athens triumphantly proved, there are very few.

I had a mixture of emotions when Plissken Festival invited me to attend the first winter edition of their ever-growing and popular festival. Firstly I was embarrassed to say that despite 2014 being its 4th year, and having had consistently strong lineups, I hadn't heard of the festival, based in Athens and Thessaloniki. Secondly I was intrigued to see. Lastly I owe a thanks to Aegean, Dorian Inn Hotel and Discover Greece for the chance to check it out.

Such was the success of the first fours years, the festival has launched its Winter edition, a third of the size and days but yet still with the brilliantly curated lineup, amazing attention to detail and fantastic atmosphere. The lineup of the festival managed to be eclectic (from no-wave to grime to electro) while still retaining a strong theme throughout which made for a compelling and varied evening. Every artist on the bill delivered a well thought-out and ambitious live performance, regardless of genre. A full evening of over 8 hours of music, almost without a break (a testament to the quick switchovers) is a no easy feat for an audience yet Plissken managed to make it an extremely pleasant one.

Son Lux

Son Lux's set was nothing short of a spectacle. Full of energy, passion and movement, New Yorker Ryan Lott, the man behind Son Lux and his two band members provided a thoroughly enjoyable live experience. Having played Plissken Summer Festival earlier in the year, it’s no wonder they were invited back. Managing to combine a mesmerizing intensity alongside genuine humility, Son Lux tore through their 30 minute set, making clear why they’ve picked up such critical acclaim and attracted collaborators such as Lorde and Sufjan Stevens.

In fact their energy on stage was so great that at times it overshadowed the songs themselves; often I found myself more enraptured with the drummer's ferocious playing or Ryan Lott’s movement around the stage, than I did the songs. That said, when the songs are as catchy and as passionately delivered as Son Lux’s, it barely mattered.

Lee Scratch Perry

Lee Scratch Perry is a true eccentric. Spouting inaudible jargon and dressed like an explosion in Argos' jewellery section, it is impossible to take your eyes off the 79 year Jamaican. After all with a legacy as extraordinary as his, which includes almost single-handedly inventing dub music and collaborating with Bob Marley it’s difficult to not be impressed. It’s rare to see a man of Perry’s age singing, let alone rocketing around the stage, punching balloons and performing for over an hour.

In a similar way to Son Lux, a Lee Scratch Perry is as much about the performance as it is songs themselves. Perry is so unconventional and so unique that lends itself to a true show. While I recognized very few of the songs, I found myself thoroughly enjoying his set, thanks in part to slick musicianship, comically mistimed confetti cannons and a fantastic sound system.

The Bug

On paper I should have enjoyed The Bug’s set least. Thick bass lines, turntablism and live MCing sounds like a recipe for an awkward hour performance, particularly shoehorned in between Lee Scratch Perry and instrumental rock legends Swans, yet I enjoyed every single minute of the hour-long set.

The Bug’s performance acted much like a British cultural exchange to Greece. Showcasing his brand of beatsy, bassy hip-hop infused electronic music that has defined a short but pertinent part of his recent career, The Bug and grime artist and ex-Roll Deep member Flow Dan, effortlessly demonstrated a brilliant showcase of dynamic grime music. Ranging from industrial to soul to dancehall he tore through his set, demonstrating the eclectic taste that has come to define his rich and varied history.


Watching Swans live was akin to Stockholm syndrome. The New York 6 piece's performance was nothing short of brutal; not only did the band play for over 2 and a half hours (an hour longer than scheduled), their brand of unrelenting drone rock, self-stylised as no-wave, was undeniably challenging. Intense instrumental intros, minimal melodies and mesmerizing repetitive phrases should all equate to an unenjoyable performance, yet as frustrating as their performance was I was absolutely transfixed.

Their sound, best described as ‘experimental’ was abrasive, loud and unrelenting. Much like My Bloody Valentine’s infamous ‘Holocaust’ outro, Swans’ set succeeds in its brutal, visceral power. Bearded, tattooed and silver haired the six-piece were effortlessly cool and looked as though they'd been ripped straight out of a Cohen brother's film. A Swans set isn’t an easy experience, at times I found myself bored, aggrieved and fatigued, yet it’s certainly not a performance that is easily forgotten.

Simian Mobile Disco

Playing electronic music live isn't always the most captivating thing to watch. After all, it's difficult to get too excited about artists standing behind a laptop, shrouded in darkness and having an impressive light shows to rely on. Simian Mobile Disco however proved that it is not only possible to play live electronic music live and also that is frankly more enjoyable to watch. It must be said however that it was a shame that SMD had to follow Swans' masterful display of an over-the-top performance. Not least did Swans' performance delay SMD's on-stage time by around an hour but it also meant that their experimentalism and electronic manipulation, which for all intents and purposes was inventive, impressive and an antidote to stale button pressing, simply ended up feeling fatiguing.